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On this date in 2004, the first Black woman won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Nobel committee honored Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai, 64, for standing at the "front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and Africa." She is an outspoken environmentalist whose tree-planting campaign slows deforestation and aids the poor.
"We continue to appeal to the rich countries in the world to consider patterns of lifestyle that can reduce pollution of the environment," Maathai said. "To not do that is to put the burden on the poor countries, which do not consume as much, don't pollute as much but do suffer from that pollution." In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, the largest tree-planting project in Africa. Green Belt promotes biodiversity and, at the same time, creates jobs and gives women a stronger identity in society.
Maathai was also voted Time Magazine's "Hero of the Planet" in 1998. A household name in her country, Maathai vowed to use the cash award that comes with the award to promote her environmental campaigns.
Wangari Maathai, Africa's first female winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, died in a Nairobi hospital following a battle with cancer on September 25, 2011. She was 71.